AP MORNING WIRE
Good morning. In today's AP Morning Wire:
- US panel endorses widespread use of vaccine as deaths mount.
- In a French virus ward, death is the harshest foe but also a fact.
- Across US and Europe, pandemic's grip on economies tightens.
- 2020: The stormy, fiery year when climate disasters wouldn't stop.
DEPUTY DIRECTOR – GLOBAL NEWS COORDINATION, LONDON
AP PHOTO/JOHN ELSWICK
US panel endorses widespread use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine; When one-day US deaths topped 3,000, it was more than D-Day or 9/11
A U.S. government advisory panel has endorsed Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, in a major step toward an epic vaccination campaign that could finally conquer the outbreak that has now killed more than 292,000 and infected close to 16 million in America.
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to follow the recommendation issued by its expert advisers. The group concluded that the shot appears safe and effective against the coronavirus in people 16 and older.
A final FDA decision is expected within days. Shots would then begin for health care workers and nursing home residents. Widespread access to the general public is not expected until the spring, Lauran Neergaard and Matthew Perrone report.
U.S. Surge: Just when the nation appears on the verge of rolling out a vaccine, the numbers of people affected grow ever more horrendous. The U.S. recorded 3,124 fatalities Wednesday, the highest one-day total yet, That stunning death toll eclipsed American losses on the opening day of the Normandy invasion during World War II: 2,500, out of some 4,400 Allied dead. And it surpassed the toll on Sept. 11, 2001: 2,977. Up until last week, the peak was 2,603 deaths on April 15, when New York City was the epicenter of the nation’s outbreak. More than 106,000 people were hospitalized — also a record total, Heather Hollingsworth and Marion Renault report.
California's Confusing Messages: Health officials are urging the state’s residents to stay home as much as possible because of a surge taxing the state’s hospitals. But the most recent stay-at-home order allows Californians to do many more activities than the March shutdown that made the state a model on how to respond to the virus. People have been buying Christmas trees, shopping for groceries and hitting the gym since the orders took effect Monday in Southern California and much of the Bay Area and Central Valley, Amy Taxin, Damian Dovarganes and Olga R. Rodriguez report.
Congress: An emerging $900 billion aid package from a bipartisan group of lawmakers has all but collapsed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that Republican senators won’t support a key compromise. It includes a slimmed-down liability shield for companies from virus-related lawsuits in exchange for adding $160 billion for cash-strapped states and cities that Democrats want. The hardened Republican stance creates a new stalemate over the $900-billion-plus package. Now a legislative pile-up is threatening today's deadline to pass an unrelated government funding bill by midnight or risk a shutdown starting Saturday. Talks continue. Lisa Mascaro and Andrew Taylor report.
AP PHOTO/FRANCOIS MORI
'Such is life': In a French virus ward, death is the harshest foe but also an inescapable fact; South Africa sees sharp rise in infections, part of African surge
“Seeing people dying one after the other after you’ve spent hours and hours in a room, doing everything you can, really, to get them out of there is very, very tough," says a French paramedic at the ICU ward in the Bichat Hospital in Paris.
At the Paris hospital that recorded the first virus death outside Asia back in February, nurses and paramedics in the intensive care unit have their own coping mechanisms.
Some use meditation. Others try to remain detached. But in treating the critically sick, they also become involved emotionally. Some mourn the dead by performing the final washing of their bodies. They also have an in-house psychologist to turn to. They sometimes come to her in a rage or in tears, in need of her hot tea and understanding.
The paramedic says, ''we can’t allow ourselves to be affected by all the deaths because, otherwise, how do you cope? We’d fall into depression and stop working," she says. Sometimes se adds, ''it is very hard and very cold but we have no choice but to say to ourselves, ‘So be it. Such is life.'"
South Africa: The country is seeing a dramatic rise in cases and is bracing for increased hospitalizations and deaths. South Africa’s spike is likely to peak very quickly and could overwhelm hospital capacities in some regions. The surge highlights that a strong wave of the disease is sweeping across Africa, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Mogomotsi Magoma reports from Johannesburg.
Africa’s top public health official also said “it will be extremely terrible to see” rich countries receiving COVID-19 vaccines while African countries go without as a second surge afflicts the continent of 1.3 billion people.
India Vaccine: Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines, is increasing its production capacity by the end of 2021 to over 2.5 billion doses a year to cope with future disease outbreaks. CEO Adar Poonawalla told the AP in an interview that the pandemic is a “wake up call" for governments to invest more in health care. He also said he anticipates more frequent outbreaks and increasing spread of animal-related diseases to humans, Aniruddha Ghosal reports. The Serum Institute has a vital role as the largest company licensed to manufacture the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccines.
Australia Vaccine: Prime Minister Scott Morrison says his government won’t rush approval of Pfizer’s vaccine as he wants people to have confidence in the product. His comments come as Australian researchers said they were abandoning their own potential vaccine because it produced false positive results to HIV tests, Rod McGuirk reports.
- Bahrain has said it will give the public free virus vaccines. A week ago, it said it had become the second nation to grant an emergency-use authorization to the Pfizer vaccine. Saudi Arabia also now says it has authorized use of the same vaccine.
- Drugmakers GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi say their potential COVID-19 vaccine won’t be ready until late next year as they seek to improve the shot’s effectiveness in older people.
AP PHOTO/LYNNE SLADKY
Across US and Europe, the pandemic's grip on economies is tightening; And then there's a damaging no-deal Brexit looming as well
The worsening of the coronavirus pandemic across the United States and Europe is threatening their economies and intensifying pressure on governments and central banks on both continents to intervene aggressively.
In a worrisome sign of the harm the virus is inflicting in the U.S, the government said that the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits jumped last week to 853,000 — the most since September, Christopher Rugaber reports.
The surge in jobless claims made clear that many companies are still shedding workers as states reimpose business shutdowns and consumers avoid shopping, traveling or dining out.
Responding to similar pressures, the European Central Bank announced that it will ramp up its bond-buying program to try to hold down longer-term interest rates to spur borrowing and spending.
The ECB's action coincided with the highest single-day viral death toll in Germany, Europe's largest economy, and the shutdown of restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters and museums in France.
Adding to the apprehension and uncertainly on top of the pandemic's economic whiplash is the long running European Union-United Kingdom divorce saga which is in its last chance saloon bar for a deal. No deal will see the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs and threatens billions in trade.
EXPLAINER: The two sides are hurtling toward a tumultuous and damaging split. An outcome almost no one wants looks increasingly hard to avoid, with U.K. and EU leaders setting Sunday as the deadline for a “firm decision” about the future of the deadlocked talks, and just three weeks until the split becomes final on Jan. 1. Jill Lawless reports.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, one of the leaders of the pro-Brexit campaign in 2016 when the nation narrowly voted to leave the EU, now says there is a “strong possibility” that talks will end without agreement.
In the meantime, EU leaders have sealed an agreement on a massive long-term budget and coronavirus recovery package after they overcame objections from Hungary and Poland. The 1.82 trillion-euro ($2.21 trillion) seven-year budget and recovery fund is considered vital for many European countries whose economies have been devastated by the virus, Lorne Cook and Raf Casert report from Brussels.
2020: Disasters and Climate Change
The stormy, fiery year when climate disasters were relentless across the globe; EU agrees to reduce emissions after all-night talks
As the planet was beset by a pandemic, nature also struck relentlessly in 2020 with record-breaking and deadly weather- and climate-related disasters.
This year has seen record Atlantic hurricanes and western U.S. wildfires, devastating floods in Asia and Africa and a hot, melting Arctic.
2020 has not just been a disastrous year with the coronavirus, but a year of disasters, Seth Borenstein reports.
Worldwide, more than 220 climate- and weather-related disasters hurt a staggering more than 70 million people and caused more than $69 billion in damage. The United States will set a record for weather disasters that cost at least $1 billion.
Scientists see the fingerprints of human-caused climate change at work. There were a record 30 hurricanes, with 12 making landfall in the U.S. And California more than doubled its record for land burned in wildfires.
“Nature is sending us a message. We better hear it,” the United Nations Environment Programme Director told the AP.
Global Emissions: In the meantime, new calculations show the world's carbon dioxide emissions plunged 7% in 2020 because of the pandemic lockdowns. The study says 37 billion tons of the main heat-trapping gas has been put in the air this year. That's about 3 billion tons less than last year. U.S. emissions are down 12%. European carbon pollution is 11% lower. China's emissions only went down 1.7%. Scientists say most of the emission drop is due to less driving. They expect levels to rise again.
Europe Climate: EU leaders have reached a hard-fought deal to cut the bloc’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by the end of the decade compared with 1990 levels, avoiding a hugely embarrassing deadlock ahead of a U.N. climate meeting this weekend. Following night-long discussions at their two-day summit, the 27 member states approved the proposal to toughen the bloc’s intermediate target on the way to climate neutrality by mid-century, after a group of reluctant, coal-reliant countries finally agreed to support the improved goal., Samuel Petrequin reports from Brussels.
Other Top Stories
The revelation that federal prosecutors have launched a tax investigation into President-elect Joe Biden’s son Hunter is now looming over the incoming administration's transition efforts. It's reviving distracting storylines and complicating the choice of an attorney general who would have to oversee a probe into Biden’s son. President Donald Trump’s initial public response was surprisingly muted, just a pair of tweets. But privately he was demanding to know why the investigation was not revealed ahead of Election Day.
Republicans have found a new way to express their loyalty to Trump. The Texas lawsuit asking the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate Biden’s victory has quickly become a conservative litmus test. Many Republicans are signing onto the case even as some have predicted it will fail. The last-gasp bid to subvert the results of the election is the latest demonstration of Trump’s enduring political power even as his term is set to end. Seventeen Republican attorneys general are backing the unprecedented case. Trump and his allies have lost dozens of times in courts across the country and have no evidence of widespread fraud.
International aid groups said that at least four staff members have been killed in the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region. The Danish Refugee Council said its three staffers killed last month had worked as guards at a project site. Separately, the International Rescue Committee said it was still working to confirm the events "that led to the death of our colleague” in a refugee camp in Shire. The Tigray region remains largely sealed off from the outside world as a humanitarian crisis for millions unfolds, with growing hunger, attacks on refugees and dwindling medicine and other supplies more than a month after fighting erupted.
Hong Kong pro-democracy activist and media tycoon Jimmy Lai has been charged under the city’s national security law, amid a widening crackdown on dissent. Local broadcaster TVB said that Lai was charged on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces and endangering national security. He is the most high-profile person to be charged under the law since it was implemented in June. Police said in a statement that they arrested a 73-year-old man under the national security law, but did not name him.